Aunties M & Em

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Christmas Movies & Cookies

Here in the Midwest, we were hit with the first winter storm of the season…complete with freezing mist and a little snow last night.  At my house, we got about 1/2 inch of snow, with the balmy high temperature of 7 degrees.  I spent today with Hallmark Christmas Movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Christmas treats.

But it didn’t start out that way…this weekend was supposed to be our family get-together with Mom’s side of the family.  We were going to drive up Friday night; I was going to start the marshmallows and make the dough for a treacle tart.  Saturday I was going to make the tart, S cookies, and cut up the marshmallows…and then spend the afternoon celebrating Christmas with my immediate family, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandma.

Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  The freezing mist moved into the area Friday afternoon, and my normal 45 minute commute from St. Louis’s Dogtown neighborhood turned into 3 hours of sitting, rolling, and sitting again.  By the time I got home Friday night, I had just about cracked up, and even if the roads had really been safe, I was in no condition to even be a passenger – I really, really don’t like driving in icy conditions.  And my drive time was peanuts compared to some of my other coworkers and friends!  Anyway…

So the travel plans changed to Saturday, and I was going still make the S cookies at the very least.  Until the whole family looked at the weather forecast and then the current conditions.  Mother Nature cancelled Christmas!  Well, okay, that’s dramatic.  Steven and I decided to make the most of the day before more freezing rain set in, and we were able to finish our Christmas shopping yesterday instead of today – yay!  By the time we went to bed last night, our church had decided to cancel services to keep everyone safe, so I knew I had a very relaxed day ahead of me today.

I woke up early, oh, say 4:30 a.m. and started watching Hallmark movies.  Every so often, Lori Laughlin would be featured with a Countdown to Christmas moment (7 days to go, y’all).  In it, she talks about holiday baking and how there is one particular apple pie that has to make every year…even if she was stranded on the moon, she’d figure out how to make it.  Lori goes on to say that it’s her way of still connecting with her dad, even though he has since passed away.

That simple statement had me thinking.  What is the one recipe I have to make every year, no ifs, ands or buts?  For me, it’s S cookies, which are a Nelson tradition…come heck, high water, or freezing rain, I will make S cookies.  I even made a batch shortly after our wedding (our anniversary is December 23), and mixed them by hand because I didn’t have an electric mixer of any kind.

But just why do I have to make them?  I had never really thought about it before…other than it’s just not Christmas without them.  But it really resonated with me when Lori said that when she makes the pie, it still connects her to her father.  It got me thinking, and I realized it’s one way for me to connect with my Grandma Nelson, Dad’s mother.  She passed away when I was two, so I didn’t really get to know her.  But she taught my mom how to make them, and in turn, Mom has taught me.

em-grandma-nelson-circa-1979

Em & Grandma Nelson, circa 1979

 

 

I wish I’d been able to know her…I know she was a great lady, and I would have loved spending time with her in her kitchen.  But I am so grateful that the people in my life who did know her tell me and Gregory (and my cousins for that matter) stories about her and my grandfather.

Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I won’t be sharing the recipe with you.  You’d have to be part of the Nelson family, either by blood or marriage, in order to learn…Dad doesn’t even know how to make them!  Mom and I didn’t teach Jessi until she and Greg were married…and she’s doing a splendid job of keeping it in the family!  I don’t know how far back that tradition goes, but I’m not willing to monkey around with tradition!

So now I’m ending this crazy winter-weather weekend with more Hallmark Christmas movies (why does A Royal Christmas have to start at 11 p.m.??  I can’t stay up to finish!) and sharing these thoughts with you.  Lori Laughlin shared one of her favorite things about the holidays, and it’s the same as mine: baking and making Christmas cookies and treats!  I love the comforting process of mixing the dough, forming the cookies, and sampling the broken ones (all in the name of quality assurance!).  And while homemade marshmallows are a new tradition for me, I love watching the sugar syrup and gelatin transform into luxurious marshmallow crème, and knowing that I made the perfect topping for my hot chocolate.

Merry Christmas to you all…and I hope Mother Nature doesn’t interfere with anyone’s Christmas plans from here on out!

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Christmas 2012

As I sit here at the close of this year’s Christmas Day, I find myself reflecting on past Christmases.  This is by far my favorite time of year.  The air is crisp and cold, and we either have snow or are gearing up for an impending snow storm.  Families and friends are reconnecting, perhaps planning a party, or at least dinner.  For me, I’m celebrating three very different occasions: the anniversary of my hubby’s dad’s liver transplant, my wedding anniversary, and of course, Christmas.

Five years ago, Steven’s dad was diagnosed with liver failure that had no known cause.  He was placed on the waiting list that fall…which just begins a long, stressful wait.  I can’t find the words to describe what it’s like to wait for that one phone call…or two…or three.  Two false alarms, and one “good-to-go” call is what it took before we could finally settle in for a very long night in the ICU waiting room.  Three days before Christmas.  Now, I’ve been on the living donor side of transplant surgery when my dad donated over half his liver to his cousin in 2001.  But it’s a completely different feeling to be on the recipient side…especially knowing that my loved one gets a second life because another family is grieving the death of their loved one.  Because of that family’s willingness to donate their loved one’s organs, not only my family, but also several other families get more time with their loved ones.  This year, we were able to celebrate Dad’s 5th second birthday!  Thank God for medical technology that allows for the intricacies of transplant surgery!

Steven and I met when I was a sophomore in college (Go, McKendree Bearcats!).  He says that after our first date, he went home and told his mom that I was the girl he was going to marry, a story she confirms.  Aw!  In October of that year, he proposed on McKendree’s front lawn, one of my favorite places on campus.  I was so surprised, but found the ability to say yes.  I wanted to finish school first, and he was so understanding and patient…what a blessing!  We were married two years later, on December 23, 2000.  I think our relationship benefitted, though, from such a lengthy engagement.  We were able to learn about each other’s habits, our family’s habits, and really see each other at our best and worst.  Some days we can’t believe it’s been 12 years…and others…well, it feels like it’s been a lot longer.  I am so thankful every day, though, that God blessed me with Steven.  I couldn’t imagine my life with anyone else!

And now, Christmas…my very favorite holiday of the year.  The cookies and candies…the decorations…the twinkle of lights on houses and trees – I just love it all.  Each year, I make fudge for my brother and S-cookies for my dad…at minimum!  I also made animal (cutout) cookies this year, and we’ll decorate them as a family on Friday night.  We’ll get together with Mom’s family on Saturday, and just our six that night.  Steven and I spent time yesterday and today with his parents, as well as this morning with just the two of us.

We started our Christmas festivities, though, with singing in both Christmas Eve services at our church, Leclaire Christian Church.   The service, whether we attend or participate in it, always helps to get me centered on the real reason for Christmas.  Without the birth of Jesus, we wouldn’t be able to know the power of God’s redemptive love.  Without Him, my joy in celebrating Dad’s second birthday and my anniversary wouldn’t be as meaningful.  Without Him, my joy in the Christmas season wouldn’t be complete.  Thank You, God, for sending your Son for us.  Thank You for loving us so much that you give us a second chance…a chance for eternal life.

My greatest wish for each of you is that you have a blessed Christmas, and that the memories of today stretch into the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

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